Final Sweetheart Splash ends two decades of winter water fun

By BETH ALTENA

The last annual Rockford Sweetheart Splash in the Rogue River took place before a considerable crowd in nearly balmy 42 degree weather. Judge Mayor Steve Jazweic apologized to jumpers that the water of the Rogue River might not be as cold as normal, and hoped they wouldn’t be disappointed.

Crowds watched singles, pairs and group jumpers vie for prizes as they performed skits, danced to music or just went straight on in. The Algoma Township Dive Team, who have been in attendance to every one of the twenty two years of Sweetheart Splash lounged comfortably in the water and waited along shore in case of emergency. Likewise, City of Rockford Department of Public Safety and Rockford Ambulance were also on hand to monitor the safety of those who opted to splish splash on in the Rogue River for love or place of pride.

Winners for the third year in a row were the Rockford High School Beyond the Rock student news team. Jason Parker, Rockford Rotary’s president, jumped in with his wife Cyndi, and the pair took the couple’s top prize. Singles jumper Aaron Trapp from Rockford Brewing took the solo win with his brave dip. With all jumpers, perhaps the best part of Splash is to see the look on people’s faces before they go in and after they feel the chill of the river water.

The Sweetheart Splash was begun by Rockford Rotary and lately has been a project of Rockford High School Interact Club, the junior Rotary group. According to counselor Kellie Gardner, the group has raised over $40,000 in seven years for water projects around the world. That day they were working on fundraising for a water well in Nigeria.

The warm weather was likely a boon for jumpers, although it was hard to tell by the looks on their faces if the balmy temperature helped ward off the water’s bite. The longest jumper in the water stayed thirty seconds. Jason Parker stated he planned to beat that record, but changed his mind after hitting the H2O. “Eight seconds was good,” he stated after his plunge.

People have been jumping in the river the two decades since the event began for a variety of great causes. Jumpers have declared both love and hate: asking for their true love’s hand in marriage or contributing to the fight of cancer. Other communities have similar events annually, offering the adventurous a chance to show off their love, bravery or lack of common sense. Perhaps some other organization will take up the cause and bring this historic event back onto the calendar for Rockford.